Last spring our hives were moved to a new location in a small wild flower meadow, with the help of a local bee keeper we now have two very healthy colonies that are thriving. Now the weather is warmer work has started to get our first crop of honey.
Over the winter months the bees cluster together to keep warm keeping the temperature inside at around 25 C, feeders containing a mixture of sugar and water are sometimes placed in the roof to provide extra food. They use a mixture of saliva, beeswax and plant resins call Propolis to seal the hive, as the weather warms up in spring the hives are opened and checked.
Colonies in winter are typically made up of 10 – 15,000 bees, this rises up to 50,000 in summer. With the hives opened the frames are all removed and checked, a smoker is used to make the bees go down into the hive while they are being disturbed. Queens are marked with a small blob of bright paint on their backs so they are easier to find.
Both the hives are now full so extra boxes called “Supers” are placed on top, a yellow plastic excluder is used to keep the queen in the lower part where she will continue laying eggs to raise new brood, a worker only lives for 5 – 6 weeks in the summer so new bees are constantly being born, the queen can live for several years.
The new boxes contain the frames where the honey will be harvested, over the next few months the hives will be regularly inspected and the honey extracted, the bees are now very busy all over the gardens and meadow, more updates to follow!